A Saudi Arabian princess gets her jewels stolen in Karlovy Vary -right across the street from the town's police headquarters, a noted Czech composer shares the secret of his success: he can hear mushrooms sing. And the Prague 2 magistrate organizes a public execution: a pickpocket gets his hand chopped off as a warning to others. Find out more in this week's magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

Photo: Archive of Radio PraguePhoto: Archive of Radio Prague A noted Czech orchestral composer has revealed the secret of his success: the ability to hear mushrooms sing. Composer Vaclav Halek says he takes a pencil and paper to the forest to record songs that he claims emanate from individual or groups of fungi. "I simply record the music that mushrooms sing to me" he told a leading Czech paper, when asked where he sought inspiration. Halek has been listening to mushrooms for twenty years and says he's used the music for his numerous film and theatre scores. According to the composer every mushroom has its own type of music. There are tones and melodies that only toadstools make, button mushrooms have their own melodies and so do the rest - Halek says. He also claims to hear music coming from rocks and trees, but prefers mushroom melodies.

Hotel Pavlov, photo: Kristýna MakováHotel Pavlov, photo: Kristýna Maková The police in Karlovy Vary are investigating the biggest theft in the town's history. Jewels worth over three and a half million crowns -125 thousand dollars- belonging to 26 year old Princess Fahdah of Saudi Arabia disappeared from her hotel room without trace this week. The hotels in the renowned Karlovy Vary spa town are used to hosting the rich and famous and most have adequate facilities for the safekeeping of money and jewels. The owner of the Hotel Pavlov where the incident happened said that there was a safe in the Princesses suite and the magnetic lock on her door had not been damaged. The theft remains a mystery because the hotel was so well secured - its management had invested 35 million dollars into security - and the hotel itself is located opposite the Karlovy Vary police headquarters. All the more reason why the police are determined to resolve this particular case...

Have you ever wondered why so many people have what is called a beer belly? Apparently the name is all wrong. A study of Czech beer drinkers conducted by a team from the University of London has found that it is "unlikely" that beer intake is associated with a beer belly. Published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study says it is unlikely that beer intake is associated with an increased waist hip ratio and body mass index. The research team allegedly took a random sample of close to two thousand men and women living in different parts of the Czech Republic /Czechs were chosen for the obvious reason that they are the worlds Number 1 beer drinkers / and monitored the amount of beer, wine and spirits they drank in a week. They compared heavy beer drinkers with non-drinkers - and to their surprise concluded that their waist hip ratio must be expanding from other causes than beer. A newly established Obesity Institute in Prague is now busy analysing whether it might not be dumplings - but not everyone is that interested in finding the culprit - a certain Czech firm is making good money selling bars of soap which -if applied to the pot belly daily - should make it disappear - no matter what brought it about.

After the Czech press published a photo of Queeny the Indian cat with different colour eyes -one gold and one blue - a Prague family came forward to show off their own pet - who also has one green and one blue eye. The kitten is called Krasnoocka -or Beauty Eyes -and has become the family mascot.

Come autumn many Czechs distil their own home made spirits. People distil everything - apples, quinces, plums, pears, apricots - all go into the making of home made fire water. This year the hit of the distilling season appears to be strawberry and black current home made brandy. There are 680 registered recipes for what Czechs call palenice - fire water. And there is a large number of distilleries on the scene for fruit growers who cannot be bothered to make their own spirits - they just bring in their produce and in return they get the adequate amount of apple, plum or apricot brandy. The advantage of getting your own fruit distilled at one of these local distilleries is a 50% lower consumer tax on the brandy, which must not, according to Czech law, be sold. Most of the produce just goes straight to people's cellars for their own use and to treat friends during the long winter months. Some Czech farmers still firmly believe that a shot or two of home made brandy is the best medicine for a bad cold.

Soldier SweikSoldier Sweik Mention the good soldier Sweik in Europe and there's a fair chance that the name will ring a bell. Mention his name in Estonia and you get an immediate enthusiastic response. Most Czechs are amazed to find that this legendary literary figure - should have made so great an impact in one of the Baltic states. The fact is that this rebel hero from the days of the Austro-Hungarian empire who had his own way of getting round the authoritarian system and making the best out of every situation captured the hearts of Estonians at the time when they lived under Soviet rule. The Soviets did not consider the book politically dangerous and so Hasek's good soldier Sweik was the most translated foreign work in Estonia - a must in everyone's library. There is to this day a Sweik pub in the centre of Tallin -called Sweiki Juurees - literally meaning " at Sweik's". The pub serves Czech beer, potato pancakes, sausages in vinegar and fruit dumplings - all Czech staples. The walls are covered with pictures and paintings of Sweik and the décor is a nostalgic reminder of times past. The place is popular with foreign students and the locals like to drop in for a pint of good Czech beer - but you will find few Czechs in the place. There's only a tiny Czech community in Estonia - 15 people in all including the staff of the Czech embassy in Tallin. And unlike Sweik most of them are there only temporarily.


Wine harvesting festival, photo: CTKWine harvesting festival, photo: CTK Czechs and foreign visitors to the annual wine harvesting festival in Prague 2 witnessed a truly gruesome sight this year- a public execution in which the hand of a street pickpocket was chopped off as a warning to others. People turned their faces away and made sounds of disgust as the actors really got into their roles with ketchup splashing from the block and a hand dropping onto the cobblestones amidst horrendous screeching from the victim. Wine harvesting festival, photo: CTKWine harvesting festival, photo: CTKThis years wine harvest festival was in Gothic style - several Prague mayors were dressed up as kings, the Czech nation's patron saint Wenceslas mingled with the crowd urging people to try the wine and be of good cheer. The place was filled with musicians, jesters, jugglers and fencers in period costume. Of course a great many visitors entered into the spirit of things and donned their own fancy dress. As always, the public loved it - the wine was superb - the musicians were merry- and if there were any pickpockets working quietly in the background - well they certainly didn't get their hands chopped off - after all this is a civilized country in the third millennium.